The refuge lies within Lower Pecos Valley subsection of the Great Plains Physiographic Province. Vegetation is mixed Chihuahuan shrub/grassland. The Pecos River flows through all three tracts of the refuge with an additional 750 acres of artificial impoundment and associated wetlands, Bitter Lake Playa and numerous sinkholes. There are 6 federally listed species, 15 state listed species mostly associated with isolated saline and freshwater wetlands. There are 30000-50000 visitors per year.

In the surrounding area there are additional wetlands and lakes that also serve as resting, wintering, and feeding grounds for a variety of waterfowl. These include the two closed, spring-fed oxbow lakes joined by a small stream and draining into Spring River. The land is owned by four families. A small copse of elm and salt cedar provides cover. Landowners are careful of visitors and usually only allow bird counters into the area. These lakes are rarely disturbed and are large enough to provide winter grounds for 500-3000 waterfowl including rarities such as Greater Scaup and Wood Duck.

Directions: From US-285 at the north side of Roswell, turn east onto NM-246 and follow the road to the refuge.

Ornithological Summary

Approximately 15 pairs of Black-necked Stilt, 45 pairs of American Avocet, 5 pairs of Least Tern, and 60 pairs of Snowy Plover nest on the refuge. While migrating populations of Wilson's Phalarope peak near 600 birds in spring and 500 in fall. Duck populations peak in the fall at 6000-10,000 with Northern Pintail comprising half that number. Migrants include 8000 Snow and Ross' geese and 4000 Sandhill Cranes. All of the above bird activity is centered around 500 acres of natural and artificial wetlands.

Data are averages of the Weekly Waterbird Surveys for the years 1997-98.

Conservation Issues

To restore and maintain selected portions of a hydrological system that more closely mimics the natural processes along the reach of the Pecos River adjacent to Bitter Lake NWR by restoring the river channel. To protect non-riverine wetlands from further groundwater loss and from potential contamination from development adjacent to the refuge. Understanding protecting and restoring breeding and residential populations of federal and state listed endangered and threatened species.


US Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 7, Roswell NM 88202, 505-622-6755

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